On the 14th of October 2022, the first ever performance of an oratorio celebrating the life of St. Bernadette was performed at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Chiswick. It was a beautiful and moving evening put on in aid of Friends of the Holy Land. We were honoured and humbled to have been the recipients of the evening’s proceeds and give thanks for the many hours of hard work put into making the evening such a success.

We are often inspired by the hard work of those who fundraise to support our efforts in the Holy Land. The event was made possible by a number of volunteers- from those who made arrangements for catering to those who sold tickets. Many thanks especially to Dinah Wiener, whose initiative brought about the evening’s performance.

This is Dinah's account of her preparations…

Inspired by Peter Rand and Sir Vincent Fean on my Westminster pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2018, I readily accepted an invitation to join the Kensington FHL committee. The following year my parish priest Canon Michael Dunne allowed me to make FHL part of our Lent Appeal, raising over £12,000.

In February 2020 I suggested asking for Peter’s Way of the Cross to be performed in Our Lady of Grace. This was the first oratorio composed by my Lourdes friends Bernard Lavery and Giovanni Marseglia. Fr Michael and Bernard readily agreed, but then Covid intervened.

The Kensington FHL committee resumed committee meetings on zoom in February this year, and I suggested resurrecting the oratorio. I asked Bernard, who said he would be busy in October since he was responsible for taking St Bernadette’s relics around the United Kingdom, but suggested putting Friday 14th October into our diaries. He also told me he and Giovanni had written a new oratorio, Aquero, about the life and apparitions of St Bernadette. It was a no brainer, and we began to work on arranging a concert in the church followed by dinner afterwards for those who wished.  

It was hard work as there were a number of elements: designing the flyer, spreading the word, persuading people to buy tickets, arranging the catering, ordering wine, decorating the hall for dinner, encouraging members of our church choir to join the Lourdes choir, and persuading the Cardinal to grace the event with his presence. But it was more than worth the effort, since the evening was a resounding success.

It was a world premiere of Aquero which received a standing ovation, and everybody enjoyed the dinner. Sir Vincent Fean spoke eloquently about the situation in Palestine and Peter Rand spoke about Friends of the Holy Land.

As well as Monsignor Jim Curry and Canon Michael Dunne, many other clergy and parishioners of Our Lady of Grace and Our Lady of Victories attended both concert and dinner, meaning there was a full church and a full hall. Over £5,000 was raised for Friends of the Holy Land.”

If putting together an event like this in your parish is something you might be interested in, please contact our office on 01926 512980 or email us [email protected]. We would be happy to help.